Travel Attitude!

Travel Attitude

We often get asked about how we manage to travel so much. TBH, we don’t think it’s ‘much’; we would love to travel at least twice as much as we do now. But, returning to the point, we realise we cannot give ‘tips’ for we are not experts.

What we can do is share our ‘habits’ that make our life fuller of travel than most.

Habit #1 – Holiday Calendar

If you work in the corporate sector, your organization would send you a holiday calendar in the second half of December or latest by the first half of January.

This is our first step. The moment N’s holiday calendar comes, we begin our holiday planning. (P does not work in the corporate sector; so, she works around N’s calendar.)

These days, organizations give holidays closer to weekends – Monday/ Tuesday/ Thursday/ Friday – so that by taking just one leave (or no leave at all), you are able to get an extended weekend. We utilise this provision wholeheartedly.

For most people, we have seen they do not pay attention to the holiday calendar. One day before the holiday, they go to ‘HR’ & ask – “Is tomorrow a holiday?” Well, if you are going to be a last moment person, then you can certainly not plan a holiday.

If you do not work in the corporate sector, you can work out your own holiday calendar. By November, the internet is flooded with the list of holidays for the next year. Just a matter of then deciding which dates suit you the most.

Pay attention to the holiday calendar & mark out the dates which are long weekends or those which can provide opportunities to travel. A short trip does not need more than three days.

We all get opportunities equally; depends on what we make of it…

Habit #2 – Long Voyages

We have a few thumb rules, the biggest of which is – More shorter holidays, fewer longer holidays. In a year, we take off for a long holiday only twice.

Once is during our anniversary where we take a week off & try to make it an international holiday. The second is sometime during the middle of the year where we can get five days off comfortably.

For many years, this second holiday has fallen around 15th August which is a great time to take off in India, especially in a larger group, as everyone has a holiday around this time.

Both the longer holidays are meant for destinations not close by. Over the last few years, we have covered Bhutan, Singapore, Australia, Italy, Ladakh, Malaysia, Kashmir, USA, China, United Kingdom, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Indonesia, Indian West Coast, Kenya, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Maharashtra.

We work towards making everything revolve around our holiday, rather than the other way around.

Habit #3 – Short Drives

We find these trickier than longer ones. Our short breaks are over an extended weekend. Every single time, it’s a bother to ascertain how to fit the most in the limited time, while also accounting for the travel time.

We’ve another thumb rule: if it’s a three-day break, we don’t go beyond 300 kms. Living in the NCR, 300 kms translates into the Himalayas in the East & Rajasthan in the West.

If we want to exceed the 300 kms limit, we opt for places that are easy to get to. Places which are a flight/ train/ bus hop away. In the last few years, we’ve covered –

We hear folks say they don’t get leave from work. We find it hard to believe that taking ONE day off can be such a challenge.

Habit #4 – Seasonal Travel

We plan our travels around seasons which means we opt for the off-season for most places. This helps in avoiding crowds & getting value out of whatever we spend.

E.g., we will never go to a Goa during the peak winter season in north India. But this also doesn’t mean that we go to Ladakh in January or Rajasthan in May! (There are perks of this kind of travel too – like spotting tigers in the peak of summer.)

In extreme weather conditions, we opt for off-beat destinations, like a Rikholi over a Mussoorie.

Habit #5 – Research, Research, Research!

Before embarking on any trip, we carry out extensive research. What to see, where to eat, where to shop, best sunrise/ sunset spot, best local cuisine, mode of transport, hidden gem & so forth!

We try to make the best of our visits because we usually don’t intend to return to the same destination. Life is too short for repetitions! 😀

Habit #6 – Day Planning

Thanks to the above research, we manage to plan each of our travel days. This ensures we don’t waste time once we reach in figuring things out. When we’ve travelled in groups, & where we’ve let go of our obsessive planning tendencies, we’ve realised that groups waste a huge amount of time in just ascertaining what to do on a particular day. By the time they decide, half the day is already gone!

Habit #7 – Expect the Unexpected!

Like we said above, we always have a plan about what we want to see but we also allow for surprises. E.g., in Daman, we had our minds on the beaches & forts but also managed to chalk out one day to drive south, along the Arabian Sea, to the twin seaside towns of Bordi & Dahanu.

Habit #8 – Ditch the Lethargy

We hear folks say ‘we just want to rest over the weekend’. It’s surely tempting to sleep in over a long weekend but we know this time isn’t returning. There’ll come a time when we’ll be forced to stay within the four walls of our home; so why not make the most of ‘now’ right now?

So, don’t be lazy! Go watch stories unfold!

Habit #9 – See Local

We try to get locals to show us around the destination. In Jaipur, we had our City Palace, Amer etc. lined up, but we also got a ton of recommendations from our homestay owner. That made all the difference to our trip!

In Melbourne, the hotel concierge suggested us to walk to the Hosier Lane to see the street art. We weren’t disappointed!

Habit #10 – No Herd Mentality

There was a time when everyone was making her/ his way to Greece or Kasol closer home. Not us! We dislike flowing with the tide for the simple reason that tourist hype ruins experiences.

So, if the world is heading east, you’re sure to catch us heading west!

Habit #11 – Method in Madness

When we embraced the travel life, a lot of people would constantly express shock about our need to travel frequently. The same people now themselves travel whenever they can!

Travelling every month (or at least trying to) may seem absurd but our explorations have left us more adaptable, more contented, wiser and better human beings.

So here we are – an open book! We hope we’ve inspired you to get out more.

My Gangtok Chronicle – Chapter 6

Continuing from Chapter 5, the last stop of the day beckoned – the Rumtek Monastery. This is an important shrine for Buddhists as it’s the seat-in-exile of the Kagyu Karmapa. However, as there’s controversy around the 17th Karmapa, the monastery’s currently under the Indo- Tibetan Border Police to prevent any sectarian violence. Don’t forget to carry your identity card as you’ll not be allowed in without it.

Now a funny bit happened – the monastery underwhelmed me. I’d expected more grandeur from one so famous. Back at the hotel, I looked up the monastery on Google. I found something different to what I saw. I became glum, thinking I’d not seen the actual monastery, perhaps seen the outer wing & now I can’t even go back. But then I looked at the pictures closely. I realized that the open-air courtyard that I saw in the photos was currently covered with tarpaulin for the two-month long Kangyur Oral Transmission. & that’s why it looked different. Attention to detail madam!

But what is worth gaping at here are the lifelike frescoes. Walls after walls are lined with beautiful, vivid paintings from Buddhist mythology. I wondered at the preservation effort that would have gone into this. And for someone as inartistic as I’m, the frescoes were an epitome of creativity and finesse.

Frescoes amaze me
Frescoes amaze me

A word of caution about Rumtek Monastery though – it’s a long climb to get there. Vehicles are prohibited. Therefore, ensure you really have the willingness to visit the monastery; else you may feel cheated.

I loved the monks & nuns there. They were the embodiment of happiness & contentment. Easy with their smiles & eager to pose – they were any photographer’s delight. But do ask before clicking!

By the end of this, I was exhausted & desperately wanted my bed. I’d an early start the next day too, to catch my flight from Bagdogra. I wanted to attempt the Kanchenjunga again & hoped the clouds would give way. My wishes were to come true.

Kanchenjunga clearly visible on a gorgeous sunny day

When we started the next morning, the clouds parted just enough for me to capture the peak. I thanked the Almighty. Subconsciously, I’ve begun to be grateful for my blessings. I strive to see the positive in everything.

I dreaded returning to Delhi NCR because of the pollution there but I knew I’d to go back to be able to step out again. I love the Himalayas; Sikkim, with its cleanliness, discipline, simplicity & friendliness, appealed a lot to me. I can’t wait to return there for a longer trip. & I’m pleased as punch that the new airport is opening soon in Pakyong which will make Sikkim more accessible. So long Sikkim! You were good to this solo woman traveler.

To end the blog, for the women hesitating to take that solo trip, my top tips:

  1. If it’s your first trip or if you’re anxious, go with a travel agency who’ll take care of all your needs. Even among those, opt for the bigger names; credibility will be a nonissue then.
  2. Choose an easy destination to begin with. Don’t make it Ladakh or Spiti at the first instance. These are difficult terrains & going in company (or at least if you’re a seasoned traveler) will be better. Ensure mobile connectivity isn’t a concern; the last thing you would want’s you being stranded & your folks worried to death.
  3. Don’t hesitate to demand changes to the itinerary, flights, hotels, cabs, transfers etc. if you’re spending money on it, it better be according to your taste.
  4. Enjoy your alone time. Don’t feel awkward in sightseeing alone, eating alone etc. the world’s becoming more receptive to solo travelers.
  5. Ensure you stay alert at all times even when you’re having fun. Trust your instinct! At the same time, don’t hesitate to talk to locals.
  6. Prepare yourself for surprised remarks. My cabbie, KN, remarked “Madam ji, you’re a brave girl. You’ve done something that only boys do!”